The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is considering options for the upcoming 2015-2017 budget request that will provide a long-term solution to the state’s transportation funding shortfall. Currently the department is projecting a shortfall of $680 million.
Last month concluded a series of town hall meetings with officials from local chambers of commerce and regional economic development groups, attended by more than 600 people. In these meetings a report was presented from the Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, commissioned in January 2013. The panel recommended several changes in order to eliminate the projected deficit, including increasing the state’s gas tax by 5 cents per gallon, annual registration fees for commercial vehicles by 73 percent and the eight-year driver’s license fee by $20 to $54. In addition, the commission recommended eliminating the sales tax exemption on the trade-in value of a vehicle, and adopting a mileage-based registration fee system for passenger vehicles and light trucks.
While not offering a specific proposal to resolve the shortfall at this point, Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb stated last week that toll roads will not be included in this plan. “For the challenges we’re facing in the short term, it’s not a solution that could be practically or legally implemented,” Gottlieb said. In a poll conducted by the Marquette Law School, it was found that a majority of respondents favored toll roads, and even more opposed increasing the state gas tax, borrowing additional funds, or using general state taxes that are currently allocated to other services.
In the past, Governor Scott Walker has opposed toll roads, as well as increasing the state gas tax. While in agreement on toll roads, Gottlieb would not rule out increasing the state gas tax.When asked about additional solutions being considered, Gottlieb mentioned changing vehicle registration fees from a flat $75 to a mileage-based system. If the state was to pursue this option devices would not be installed in vehicles, he stated.